SBA increases federal support for natural disaster survivors 

Small businesses and disaster survivors will see increased federal support following a federally declared natural disaster. 

Citing an increased frequency of natural disasters, U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said the agency finalized a rule to increase support, effective for all disasters declared on or after July 31. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized maximizing resources for disaster survivors so that they can successfully recover and build resilience to the effects of climate change that have led to more frequent and costly natural disasters,” Guzman said. 

 “The SBA’s disaster loan program rule modifications will ensure more flexible and affordable disaster loans are available for small businesses, nonprofits, renters, and homeowners,” Guzman added. 

Bailey DeVries, associate administrator for Investment and Innovation and acting associate administrator for Capital Access, said, “For the first time in nearly 30 years, accounting for decades of inflation and rising construction costs, SBA is more than doubling the caps for its home disaster loan program”. 

 Increasing the loan limits ensures that communities have access to sufficient funding to help them rebuild homes, replace personal property, and reopen businesses when disasters strike. DeVries said.   

“SBA’s bold new actions continue to reshape our disaster enterprise by unleashing more capital to help devastated communities rebuild and expanding avenues to mitigate against future damage in the face of increasingly frequent and catastrophic disasters,” said Fransisco Sanchez Jr., associate administrator, SBA’s Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience.  

“While bringing the whole of SBA to the effort and inextricably tying recovery to resilience, SBA’s team is also boosting its presence in the field to lead from the ground up and ensure we are meeting the priorities of each community,” Sanchez said. 

 In 2022, Guzman announced that SBA would waive the interest rate for the first year and extend the initial payment deferment period automatically to 12 months for disasters declared on or after Sept. 21, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023. 

This new rule makes the change permanent and means SBA will continue to provide relief to disaster loan borrowers by waiving interest and payments for the first year for all disaster loans beyond Sept. 30. 

Presbyterian Senior Living names new president and CEO


Dillsburg-based Presbyterian Senior Living has promoted Dan Davis to president and CEO effective Nov. 1, replacing James Bernardo, who’s retiring.

Most recently senior vice president and chief operating officer, Davis has been with Presbyterian Senior Living for 21 years and brings more than 30 years of aging services leadership experience to his new role.

He has been a licensed nursing home administrator since 1993.

Davis said in a release that he was “excited and humbled by the opportunity … . It is truly an honor to be named as only the fifth CEO for this wonderful organization that has served older adults for 90-plus years and follow in the footsteps of visionary leaders Bill Swaim, Al Shartner, Steve Proctor and Jim Bernardo. These are very large shoes to fill, and with the help of the incredible team at PSL, I am confident that we will continue to build upon the legacy of PSL and create a brighter future for aging services.”

Susan Reimann, chair of the CEO search committee, added, “On behalf of the search committee, we are confident that following a nationwide search spanning several industries that we have the right person at the right time to effectively lead PSL forward.”

Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

SBA introduces additional deferment on COVID-19 loans 

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it will be extending deferment on its loan program for small businesses’ recovering from the impacts of COVID-19. 

The deferment extension is effective for all COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loans approved in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The loans now have a total deferment of 30 months from the date that the borrower received the loan. 

Interest will continue to accrue on the loans during the deferment. 

The extended deferment period will provide additional flexibility to small business owners impacted by the pandemic, especially those in hard-hit sectors, the administration wrote in a statement on Tuesday. 

“Though our small business owners continue to power a historic economic recovery under the Biden-Harris Administration, we must continue to do everything in our power to meet our small businesses where they are with resources to ensure they can recover and thrive,” said SBA Administrator Casillas Guzman. “This extended principal and interest deferment will provide financial relief to millions of small business owners – particularly those hardest-hit by the pandemic and related marketplace challenges – so they can continue to pivot, adapt, and grow.” 

Borrowers through the program can make partial or full payments during the deferment period. After the period ends, borrowers will be required to continue making regular principal and interest payments. 

The SBA made a number of changes to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program in 2021.  

Those changes included lifting the loan cap from $500,000 to $2 million, implementing a deferred payment period, expanding the eligible use of funds and establishing a 30-day exclusivity window. 

Gov. Wolf’s 2022-23 budget proposes $4.5 billion spending increase 

In his final budget speech before the General Assembly on Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf looked back at how the state has recovered from the budget deficit it was in during his first budget address in 2015 and highlighted plans for a $43.7 billion budget that he says can leverage the state’s current surplus. 

Wolf’s budget looks to invest in job training and employee retention with a series of provisions including increasing the minimum wage, reducing the corporate net income tax, funding childcare options for state employees and more. 

It also includes a significant emphasis on pre-k through college education with $1.9 billion in allocated funds. 

“Over the past seven years, we’ve turned a $2-3 billion structural budget deficit into a $2-3 billion budget surplus. We’ve built our Rainy Day Fund to more than $2.8 billion—more than 12,000 times what it was when I took office,” Wolf said in his address on Tuesday. “We are no longer digging out of a hole. We’re ready to build. And this year’s budget does exactly that, by making new investments that will build a brighter future for Pennsylvania families.” 

The budget would increase spending by $4.5 billion and would come at the expense of Pennsylvania’s long-term financial security, according to a statement released by Senate Republican Leaders, who said the budget was less about Pennsylvania and more about Wolf’s legacy. 

“While this year’s revenues continue to outpace estimates, the long-term financial picture for the Commonwealth remains uncertain. The Governor’s revenue and spending projections over the next several years are unrealistic, do not align with traditional rates of growth and will make worse our existing structural imbalance,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. 

The budget continues an effort by the Wolf Administration to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which would increase to $12 per hour on July 1, 2022, with annual increases of $0.50 until reaching $15 in 2028. 

Wolf’s annual push for increases to the minimum wage has been met with scrutiny by business associations that say that a minimum wage would harm small businesses in rural regions and that the majority of Pennsylvania businesses have moved away from the state minimum of $7.25 an hour. 

“Governor Wolf again called for increasing the minimum wage to an eventual $15/hour. The median wage in Pennsylvania increased from $16.50 in 2020 to $17.00 in 2021. The market continues to move wages far beyond $7.25/hour, demonstrating little need for new government wage mandates,” the National Federation of Independent Businesses wrote in a statement on Tuesday. 

The budget also seeks to decrease the state’s corporate net income tax rate from 9.99% to 4.99% “as quickly as possible.” Pennsylvania’s historically high corporate net income tax has been pointed to as a harm to Pennsylvania’s competitiveness in the business sector and could drive additional business into the region if it were to fall. 

Funding for Pennsylvania’s businesses and workforce through the budget would also include $1.5 million for Industrial Resource Centers and $8 million for job training through the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania. 

The $1.9 billion in educational funding pledged through the budget would be parsed across pre-k and through colleges with $70 million going to early education, $1.75 billion for general investments in K-12 schools and over $475 million for higher education. 

Regarding health care and long-term care funding, the budget sets aside $91.25 million to increase Medical Assistance rates for skilled nursing facility providers and $14 million for state veteran’s homes. 

Further investments include $50 million to increase the supplementary payment rates for personal care homes, a $36.6 million increase in county mental health base funds and a $14.3 million increase to the SNAP benefit for low-income older adults. 

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a statewide advocacy organization for long term care providers, said that the budget was “not enough.” 

“The Governor’s proposed Medicaid funding increase would be a critical step toward sustainability for long-term care – but it’s simply not enough,” said Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the association. “At a time when nursing home providers are questioning their operational viability due to inflation and continued COVID-19 expenses, a workforce shortage has become a full-blown crisis, which has created bottlenecks in hospitals and access to care issues in long-term care facilities.” 

Former Gov. Wolf senior advisor joins Harrisburg law firm 

Former Gov. Tom Wolf staffer Rob Ghormoz has joined Harrisburg-based law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney as principal in its Government Relations Group. 

Ghormoz previously served the Wolf administration as deputy chief of staff to the governor and secretary of intergovernmental affairs. He most recently acted as senior advisor to Gov. Wolf, in which he served as the governor’s primary political and policy advisor. 

He advised on environmental and energy policy, oversaw all aspects of economic development for the Wolf administration and coordinated all economic development related grant programs in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. 

“It’s always great to start the new year with the addition of a new team member, and we could not be more excited to welcome Rob to our firm. Given that a number of our clients are focused on economic development at this time, having Rob’s perspective, insight and guidance will be invaluable,” said Robert Shuster, co-chair of Buchanan’s State and Federal Government Relations group. 

Along with his experience within the Wolf administration, Ghormoz is well-respected on both sides of the political aisle and on both the state and federal levels, said Leslie Gromis Baker, co-chair and managing director of Buchanan’s State and Federal Government Relations group. 

“Over the years, I’ve interacted with Buchanan government relations professionals and have always been impressed by their professionalism and collaborative nature. I’m thrilled to join this esteemed team and see what successes we can accomplish together on behalf of our clients,” said Ghormoz. 

Pa.’s independent living services blame low reimbursements for workforce crises 

A group of Centers for Independent Living, individuals with disabilities, caregivers and legislators met on the steps of the capital on Nov. 9 to ask the legislature to increase reimbursements for independent living. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Pennsylvania organizations offering independent living services to people with disabilities are not receiving enough Medicaid reimbursements from the state to keep their employees, say advocates for the state’s Centers for Independent Living, known as CILs. 

Earlier this month, a group of CILs, individuals with disabilities, caregivers and legislators met on the steps of the capital to ask the legislature to increase reimbursements for independent living.  

The organizations say staffing was an issue among CILs because of low reimbursements before the pandemic and is now in a full-blown workforce crisis because employees left the industry for better paying work. 

Reimbursement rates for CILs vary across the state with some receiving $17.88 to $19.88 an hour. Reimbursement in neighboring states, such as Ohio and Delaware, are at least $4 higher, said Shona Eakin, CEO of Erie-based Voices for Independence, one of the state’s largest in-home care providers for individuals with disabilities. 

Low reimbursements mean that CILs can’t offer employees more than $8 to $12 an hour for homecare work.  

“In order for there to be a sustainable market with wages, and maybe even for the first time ever a little bit of health insurance, we need to see a $5 increase,” said Eakin. “We need to see some investment in these rates of reimbursement.” 

The last increase in reimbursements was 40 cents in early 2020, which allowed Eakin to increase her employees hourly wage by 70 cents. 

“Getting a 40-cent increase after five years of no increases is great but it puts a Band-Aid on a gaping wound,” she said. 

Following the rally, Gov. Tom Wolf committed some of his staff to work with the CILs to find solutions to the problems the CILs have posed, but according to the administration, an effort to improve the workforce problem for CILs is already underway. 

The state Department of Human Services is awaiting approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow the state to fund a number of initiatives that would target direct care recruitment and retention, said Brandon Cwalina, press secretary for the department. 

The initiatives will be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, which allows states to leverage a temporary 10% increase in Medicaid reimbursements for home and community-based services. 

“This work is essential and life-sustaining, and we are committed to helping recruit and retain dedicated individuals to these positions, as the Wolf Administration has been prior to the pandemic,” said Cwalina. “We are currently awaiting our conditional approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Serivces, and once that is received, we’ll be able to move forward with implementation.” 

The rally, titled the “Rally for Our Lives,” highlighted another problem CILs are seeing: people with disabilities are reassessed annually by the state and given the number of hours that they can receive services from a CIL weekly. Those hours have been cut drastically for many Pennsylvanians, said Pam Auer, director of advocacy and community engagement at the Center for Independent Living of Central PA. 

“People with disabilities receiving services are getting reassessed and that means the services they are receiving are getting reduced,” she said. “Some are saying that the state is going out of order, and they don’t understand why they are being assessed.” 

Auer went on to say that some individuals’ hours have been cut so dramatically that they have gone from 126 hours a week with a CIL to 40 seemingly arbitrarily. 

“If you had 126 hours and you were cut to 40, how could your needs be met adequately?” said Eakin. “Everyone says that they understand that people want to live at home and not in institutions, but they don’t understand the nuances that are causing the problem.” 

Part of the problem is that the state relies too much on informal support, such as someone’s family or friends and not enough on CILs, said Auer. 


Wolf announces $36 million for community revitalization projects 

The Wolf Administration has approved spending nearly $36 million to finance some 220 community revitalization projects across the state. 

The money will come through the Commonwealth’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) and include a Dauphin County project supporting single mothers, grandmothers and their children experiencing homelessness; and Berk County initiative that helps minority-owned businesses obtain weeks of assistive program and webinar training. 

Projects funded through the NAP can be used for affordable housing, community services, crime prevention, job training, education and more. 

Nineteen projects will be funded in Central Pennsylvania; 77 in Southwest Pennsylvania; 60 in Southeast Pennsylvania; 19 in Northeast Pennsylvania; 29 in Northwest Pennsylvania; and 16 in the Lehigh Valley. 

“Communities from every corner of Pennsylvania will benefit from this funding – the result of public-private partnerships and cooperation,” said Gov. Tom Wolf, who announced the funding on Tuesday. “We are pleased to continue supporting NAP applicants who are committed to advancing and improving communities by making thoughtful plans to address the issues impacting their neighborhoods. These projects make the state stronger as a whole and keep it the best place to live, work, and play.” 

The new approvals raise the total amount of tax credits provided under the Wolf Administration to nearly $174 million in NAP funding supporting 1,128 projects statewide. 

US small businesses received $44.8 billion in funding through SBA loans in 2021 

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has distributed $44.8 billion in funding to small businesses across the country through 61,000 loans in fiscal year 2021. 

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced this week that the federal administration delivered a record number of traditional loans to small businesses during the second year of the pandemic. The loans are part of $1.1 trillion in total COVID-related relief since the start of the pandemic, according to Guzman. 

This fiscal year, the administration lent $36.5 billion in 7(a) loans, $8.2 billion in 504 loans and $71.8 million in microloans. 

Lenders reported that minority business owners received nearly $11 billion in 7(a) loans or 30% of the SBA’s total 7(a) portfolio. Minority business owners received nearly $1.88 billion in 504 loans, accounting for 23% of the 504 portfolio. 

For its microloan funding, 41% of loans went to underserved communities. 

In 2021, SBA’s low-interest 504 loan program grew in loan volume by 41% and the SBA team is already at work for fiscal year 2022, said Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the Office of Capital Access. 

Despite the growth in SBA’s loan distribution this year, there continue to be equity challenges when it comes to who has access to the loans, said Guzman. 

“While progress has been made, our data also tells a deeper story:  historic inequities in accessing capital persist, and we must do more to lower the barriers of entry to opportunity for all our entrepreneurs,” she said. “We will continue to build on our impactful programs to meet small businesses where they are and connect them with the resources needed to thrive.” 

Schuylkill County manufacturer to expand York facility

Schuylkill County-based custom fabricator and manufacturer Cardinal Systems, Inc. plans to invest nearly $9 million into expanding its Schuylkill County and Manchester Township, York County facilities.

The Wolf Administration announced on Friday that Cardinal received $317,000 in state grant funding and a $3 million Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) loan to move forward with plans to expand its two facilities.

The projects are expected to retain 300 current positions and create at least 59 new jobs over the next three years.

Cardinal, founded in 1976, manufactures steel wall panels, thermomoulded and extruded plastic products and vinyl liners for swimming pools.

At its York facility, the company plans to install IT data lines, HVAC systems and office space to expand its vinyl liner production. In Schuylkill County, Cardinal is building a new office and warehouse space to streamline its shipping operations.

“Cardinal Systems’ expansion will not only support keeping up with an increased consumer demand, but it will improve and make safer the company’s Schuylkill County facility, all while bringing dozens of new manufacturing jobs to communities in both York and Schuylkill counties,” said Wolf. “Bringing these new, full-time opportunities to Pennsylvanians in our renowned manufacturing industry has never been more important as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Gov. Tom Wolf initiates plan for comprehensive health care reform

Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a plan on Friday that addresses comprehensive health reforms. PHOTO PROVIDED.

Gov. Tom Wolf established a number of councils and commissions on Friday that his administration says will help the state address comprehensive reforms in both physical and behavioral health and make health care easier to access for Pennsylvanians.

The reform package, which has three components, was created to make health care more affordable, hold health care corporations accountable and tackle health inequalities resulting from systemic racism, Wolf said after unveiling the plan.

“Even before the pandemic, there were warning signs that Pennsylvania’s health care system wasn’t working for everyone,” he said. “Many Pennsylvanians found it hard to pay their medical bills due to rising health care costs, including families who have health care coverage and often have to pay higher premiums and more out-of-pocket costs every year.”

As part of the three-part plan, Wolf signed an executive order establishing the Interagency Health Reform Council (IHRC). The council, made up of commonwealth agencies involved in health and the governor’s office, will develop recommendations to streamline the state’s health care systems by the end of the year.

The Wolf Administration wrote in the accompanying release that the recommendations could include information on how systems can increase joint purchasing of medications, align value-based purchasing models and better utilize data from state agencies.

Wolf’s plan also calls for the formation of five Regional Accountable Health Councils across the state. The councils will be asked to develop regional plans to reduce disparities in health care, address social disparities in the state that effect health and align value-based purchasing agreements.

Wolf will work with the legislature to create a Health Value Commission charged with keeping all payers and providers accountable for health care cost growth. This, administration says, will “provide the long-term affordability and sustainability of our health care system, and to promote whole-person care.” More than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians are expected to become uninsured as a result of the pandemic, according to the administration.

Dr. Doug Jacobs, chief innovation officer at the state Department of Human Services, supported the plan, saying it is crucial for health care in Pennsylvania to be both affordable and offer a “whole-person approach to care.”

“Governor Wolf is proposing a whole-person health reform package that will make comprehensive, quality health care more affordable and accessible,” he said.

Central Penn College welcomes new CFO

Central Penn College’s newest CFO, Shawn Farr, will begin his new position on May 6. (Photo: submitted)

The new CFO of Cumberland County-based Central Penn College brings with him years of experience as an administrator and financial manager of a number of Pennsylvania schools.

Shawn Farr will be leaving his position as director of finance for Carlisle Area School District when he joins the college next month.

Farr has been a mainstay in the state’s education system for years, holding positions as the COO at the Harrisburg City School District and special assistant to the state Secretary of Education. He will now be parting from his position as director of finance and board secretary for the Carlisle Area School District after seven years, according to a press release from Central Penn.

“I am honored and excited to be joining the management team of Central Penn College as its chief financial officer,” said Farr. “I’m looking forward to making a difference in the lives of our students as they pursue their educational dreams.”

Central Penn College operates locations in East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County and East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County. The college welcomed its 10th president, Linda Fedrizzi-Williams, last year.

“Under the dynamic leadership of President Fedrizzi-Williams, the future direction of the college is bright,” Farr said.

Farr also spent 15 years in a variety of positions at California State University in Washington County as the assistant director for business management, financial adviser for the office of the Chancellor and CFO of the university’s nonprofit foundation.

He will be taking over the position on May 6.